Berlin I Hardly Knew Ye

Thanks to Drudge, I come across two articles today and  laugh in bewilderment as I keep up this blog's recent tradition of covering topics in unplanned couplets. The first article is short and sweet...well, short anyway:

Berlin city officials, summoned by complaints over the noise, found a 60-year-old man sharing his two-room flat with 1,700 budgerigars.

Apparently the man adopted two birds out of loneliness, and when the extended family showed up, he was loath to ruffle any feathers. The article's author gracefully omits from the story the obvious implication that getting old really, really sucks.

The second article has to do with a creative proposal from the head of the Free Democratic Party (fairly analogous to America's Libertarian Party, but with more sway):

A Berlin politician has come under fire for suggesting that poor people should be encouraged to catch rats by offering them €1 per dead rodent. The intriguing idea entails some gnawing practical problems and has been called "inhuman and cynical".

The idea seems to have been inspired by the success of the Pfand in Germany, which has reduced litter by paying out cash for empty plastic bottles. It may well be the case that cash for corpses would not work similarly well, but this doesn't appear to be the focus of the criticism. Instead, critics complain that it would be inhuman to pay (poor) people to kill rats.

Now, I would not enjoy killing rats for money. Nor would  I want to be an owl vomit collector or a septic tank technician (both real jobs). I doubt you'll find many people who take great joy in unpleasant tasks such as these, but nonetheless do them after having made a calculation that the pay made it worth their while. It may be distasteful that for some some killing rats might be a viable source of income, just like it's distasteful that some sell blood to make ends meet. But isn't it rather inhuman to deny them a way to improve their lot just because it's distasteful to someone in power? You can believe that it's unjust for people to have to make these decisions in such wealthy societies, but denying people a choice to mask a disagreeable reality helps no one.

If those birds adopted by the lonely pensioner had been bountied rats, after all, he might have been left with something other than a flat covered in poo.